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Tricaster Pro Screenshots

These pictures are taken from a Tricaster Pro made (I'd guess) circa 2007, with the "2.0" software. This is a second- or perhaps third-gen device, so it still has traces of the original Tricaster's amateur-oriented design (e.g. the term "live" instead of "Program.")

While the VT software (detailed here) offers a lot of flexibility and depth, the Tricaster UI is very simplistic; 90% of the detail on this page will just be one long paragraph. I could give more detail on the features, but since a lot of them are derived from the earlier VT software, I suggest you just check out the VT[5] page.

Like VT[2] through VT[5], the Tricaster software operates as a single fullscreen interface that dominates the machine. Unlike the VT series however, the Tricaster software does not run simply as an application - it completely replaces the Windows shell while it's running as far as I can tell. It is "just a program," technically, but it's intended to make the system behave like a single-function appliance.

Therefore, when the machine boots, the Windows XP splashscreen has been replaced with a Tricaster logo, and instead of a desktop, the software launches immediately.

The software can't be minimized, shortcuts like alt-tab do not work, and there is no obvious way to exit to a desktop. You have to click the shut down button, then select "Admin," at which point you're presented with a standard XP desktop.

The wallpaper is in fact an Active Desktop page - a real blast from the past, even for the mid-late 2000s when this was first sold. The options offered are very simplistic, and even "Configure Tricaster" only offers an aspect ratio option. There are in fact very, very few settings in the entire system.

This is the Tricaster interface. Get used to it.

An editorial:

Compared to the VT software that the Tricaster is based on, this interface is a great disappointment. It is completely fixed-function. There is zero customization - no modules, no movable components, no skins. It looks exactly like this, all the time, which makes these screenshots very boring to look at.

More to the point however, there is no customizability of function. The input bus is completely fixed, inputs are not assignable. There is one button labeled DDR, and that is the only DDR you get. If you wish to play two videos at once... buy a bigger Tricaster. This one won't do it. The same is true for all other internally generated sources: you get one image, one CG, one background generator, and nothing else.

If you want to slide from one title card to another... you can't do that. If you want to wipe from one video to another... you can't do that. If you want to chroma key two videos together... you can't do that.

I've been told that the newest Tricasters have returned to the original PC Toaster philosophy of unlimited flexibility, but at least as late as the TCXD300 - a higher-specced machine with HD from several years later - the exact same constraints exist.

I can't speak to Newtek's reasoning behind this, since it's a complete heel turn from their previous "the CPU is the video processor" philosophy. I can tell you that it is not a hardware limitation; as with the VT product, everything the Tricaster does is just code running on the CPU, so there are no FPGAs or ASICs being maxed out here.

I can tell you that the Tricaster software can be convinced with some modifications that it's running on a higher-specced model, and it will simply enable these extra features, which work with no trouble.

In their defense, this interface can be used by anyone familiar with a Tricaster, since every control will always be in the same place and perform the same function. That is probably considered a feature, not a bug, by many. Still, it seems like an in-between solution could have been reached.

There are many controls exposed right off the bat, which can be intimidating. However, that's simply because almost every possible feature is presented at once.

The eight thumbnails in the upper left show all possible inputs (except for the Text generator) in realtime. You can click on one of these to select it on the Preview bus, and double-click it to take it live on the program bus. The DDR and Picture (slideshow) thumbnails have playback controls underneath for convenience.

To the right of the thumbnails are the preview and program monitors which do exactly what they seem like they should do.

Below the thumbnails we have the switcher interface. The Live and Preview buses do what you'd expect. Effects, as far as I know, is used solely for defining the background to be used for LiveMatte and LiveSet. Auto/Take and the T-bar are as expected.

The transition list to the right is one of the few customizable parts of the UI. You can populate the five pages of transitions with whatever you like by right clicking them. The "Ready" text indicates whether the transition has finished loading into memory - it takes a few seconds to cache when you click on it. Enabling "Advance" will cause the transition list to step forward each time you select a transition, so you can treat it as a "playlist" of effects.

The Overlay section is what would conventionally be called a downstream key, or DSK. It is a very basic one that simply overlays an input - chosen from one of the four options above - after whatever comes out of the switcher. This allows you to put a lower third graphic over a LiveSet, for instance, or fade in a title card that obscures the normal program feed while you arrange a new matte setup. The arrows let you cycle through preloaded title cards, videos or pictures. The only transitions allowed are cut and fade.

The far lower left offers quick access to local-record and stream buttons, which just toggle on and off.

Next to that, the DDR/Picture sections let you queue up videos to play in the DDR, and pictures to play in a slideshow (no effects/transitions.) Controls next to each section do what you'd expect. Below the play/pause/ff controls are a virtual jog dial, and a virtual shuttle control below that. You can save and load playlists, so shows can be prepped to some extent, though there are no broadcast automation features.

Finally, a four-channel audio mixer in the lower right does exactly what you'd expect. I am not sure what Talk Over does - it may diminish the volume of the other channels temporarily.

The text tab holds titlecards designed in the CG Designer (renamed "Edit Text" in Tricasters.) These are actually templates - once you load one, you can edit it in place. This allows you to create a template for a given show, then edit copies of it with new info for each broadcast.

The Edit Text tab (at the top of the screen) swaps out the switcher UI for the CG editor. This is an adaptation of the CG Designer from the VT software, so it's actually a very capable vector graphics editor with layers, great bezier curve drawing, alignment tools, shadows on both objects and text, and so on. It supports alpha, so exported titles loaded as an Overlay will key cleanly.

The Background Generator does just that. You can create generic gradients for e.g. keying in talent or title cards with alpha channels, and set 10 presets.

Like the VT software, Input Setup not only offers per-input adjustments to format and brightness/contrast/hue (known as Proc Amp in most mixers) but it also offers matte settings per-channel, so you can transition directly from one keyed camera to another.

Notably, this version of the Tricaster came out after the VT[5] software, when Newtek switched from their previous keyer - which supported luma keying, "linear" keying, *and* chroma keying - and adopted a new system called LiveMatte which only supports chroma. Likewise, you can only do chroma here.

LiveSet was introduced in VT[5] as well, and it offers the ability to place an actor (or any other source) into a "3D" virtual set. I am not sure how it's actually rendered, but scenes can have live reflections of the inserted actor, so there's some kind of trickery going on; I would guess a clever use of masks and distortion effects. It's also possible that it's just real easy to do "pixel shader" type effects at ~720x480 directly on the CPU though.

LiveSets are made in some separate authoring app I've yet to get a look at, and each set only uses up to four fixed angles; the "camera" cannot be moved within the set.

The "External" tab serves two separate purposes.

First, it allows you to configure up to three "iVGA" sources. iVGA was the predecessor to Newtek NDI, and did much the same thing: an application run on any PC on the same network can stream its desktop to a Tricaster (or VT[5] install) which can then use it as an input in the production. There's only one External input on the switcher bus, but within the External panel you can select between three separate iVGA sources on the fly.

These sources can include LiveText. That's basically the exact same thing that's in the Edit Text tab, except as a standalone app. You can run it on a separate PC and "cast" its output to a Tricaster exactly as if it were a normal iVGA input. That allows you to maintain the traditional separation of duties between the "switcher" and the "CG" (character generator.)

The second function allows highres output. If you wondered what "Tricaster" meant, it refers to the machine's ability to output a normal TV signal, an internet stream, and a "projector" signal simultaneously. In 2005 when this was new (in the first Tricaster, the TC100) any projector that could connect to a computer used VGA, so that's the term used here, "Output to VGA." In practice, the TC Pro (per the manual) actually prefers to use the DVI port, for obvious reasons.

Output can be at any resolution the monitor supports. It is also possible to overlay the iVGA input over the "VGA" output at full resolution. In other words, if you're pressenting on a 1024x768 projector, even though the Tricaster is mixing most of your presentation - the video inputs, the title cards, the DDR clips - at standard def, when you cut the iVGA input through to the VGA output, the projector will get it at the full 1024x768.

At least, I am told all of this is true. I haven't gotten it working on my unit yet, I think it's confused because the GPU is not the same as the one it shipped with. There is also a chromakey feature unique to the iVGA > VGA interface which only applies the iVGA input as a "DSK" over the VGA output. I'm not 100% sure how this works, but I suspect it overlays the high res input over the low res Program output.

The Tricaster can record to disk, either from the "Live Output" (e.g. the Program bus plus DSK if present) or just the Effects row (I'm not sure what this is for.) It records only in MPEG-2. I do not know what "Studio Profile" is, it's not in the manual or in Google results.

This tab also houses the Tricaster's third output method, online streaming. Remember that this was a technology in its infancy in ~2007 when this software was released, so unsurprisingly the options are limited. You can stream either in Windows Media Video (aka MPEG-4) to a supported WMV server, or you can allow WMV players to connect directly to a webserver hosted internally, or you can stream to a Flash streaming server. None of the bitrates are fantastic and I do not believe it will stream at full SD res.

The Capture Video tab does exactly what it sounds like. You can ingest from any of the analog inputs or via firewire DV. As above, it only records in MPEG-2.

Edit Media is an adaptation of VT[5]'s SpeedEdit, a full NLE package. I don't have the brainpower to explain every single thing it can do, but suffice to say it's on par with a contemporary NLE.

Included title templates

The CG editor comes with a bunch of title card templates. Just for fun, here are some of the sillier ones. Note that a significant number of these were actually created for VT[4] and some even still contain references to it.

Curious about what came before this? Compare to the original Tricaster TC-100.

Curious about the software this evolved from? Compare to Newtek VT[5].

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